Sadio Mane made up for an earlier penalty miss with the decisive spot-kick as Senegal claimed their first Africa Cup of Nations title with a 4-2 shoot-out win over Egypt.
The Lions of Teranga were beaten in the 2019 final by Algeria, but they belatedly got their hands on the trophy at Olembe Stadium on Sunday with a dramatic shoot-out victory after a largely dour goalless 120 minutes.
Mane saw an early penalty saved by Mohamed Abou Gabal and he was fortunate to still be on the pitch for the spot-kicks having avoided a second yellow card for a clear dive.
The Liverpool forward had the last laugh, though, powering low past Abou Gabal after Edouard Mendy had kept out Mohanad Lasheen’s tepid effort from 12 yards to send the travelling Senegal fans into raptures.
Mane had seen Mohamed Abou Gabal save his seventh-minute penalty at the Olembe Stadium in Yaounde but Egypt could not capitalise as they went all the way to extra time for the fourth consecutive game at this Cup of Nations.
Salah was due to step up to take Egypt’s fifth penalty but with Mohamed Abdelmonem hitting the post and Mohanad Lasheen having his kick saved by Edouard Mendy, the Liverpool star did not get his chance and was already on the verge of tears as his club team-mate Mane prepared to strike the decisive blow.
After two previous final defeats, Senegal are Cup of Nations winners at last, while Egypt missed out on a record-extending eighth continental crown that would also have been a first for Salah.
Senegal’s celebrations followed a disappointing final, the fifth in the last 11 editions of the tournament to be decided in a shoot-out after a goalless draw.
Indeed Egypt had already twice won finals that had been settled on penalties after finishing 0-0, and they had already won in the same manner twice in the last fortnight, against the Ivory Coast in the last 16 and the hosts in the semi-finals.
Not Salah’s night
This time their luck ran out as the tournament ended at the venue where eight people died and 38 were injured in a crush on January 24th.
The country’s 88-year-old President, Paul Biya, attended the closing ceremony where he was paraded in an open-top car to hysterical crowds along with his wife, First Lady Chantal Biya.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino and CAF chief Patrice Motsepe were also in attendance although the biggest cheers were reserved for Cameroon great Samuel Eto’o, now the head of the country’s football federation, when his face appeared on the big screens.